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Thursday, October 04, 2007

How NOT to Sue a Church

The Rev. Luis Alfredo Rios, a priest at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, might not always be on his game. That's a given. But it was when Angel Llavona decided to take his opinions to the next level that things apparently started getting out of hand. He called up the reverend on his church line and left the following message:

"Father Rios, this is Angel Llavona. I attended mass on Sunday and I have seen poor homilies, but yesterday broke all records."

Feeling offended, or perhaps wanting to hear opinions from the rest of his audience, Rios decided to play the message for his Sunday mass, adding:

"This is the person in charge of religious education here last year. That's why it is no surprise to me [that] we had the kind of religious education we had. That's why we didn't get altar boys. What should we do? Should we send him to hell or to another parish?"

After all, Llavona, a teacher at a high school in Des Plaines, did indeed serve as a volunteer with the parish's religious education program from September of 2005 to April of 2006. And while I could certainly attempt to make a few altar-boy-related jokes, I will refuse to do so - since I'm totally in favor of the church on this one. Especially because of what Llavona decided to do about being publicly outed as a jerk who complained to the preacher.

He sued. Not only did he sue Rev. Rios, he's also suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford - because somehow in his mind, the diocese is legally responsible for anything that any of their priests decide to do. So what, pray tell (no pun intended), is he suing for?

Llavona claims in the lawsuit filed this week in McHenry County that he was defamed and suffered "immediate emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation." Llavona says the humiliation forced him to change parishes. He is seeking a minimum of $50,000 in damages.

That's when I became enraged, reading the article. While I'm the first one in line to say that the Catholic Church is loaded with parishoner money and is always willing to part with chunks of it to keep things settled, especially out-of-court, there are things you sue over and things that you do NOT sue over. Getting molested as a child? Go ahead and sue. Being kicked out for discriminatory reasons? Maybe you can get away with it - the case is in the details. Being a jerk and then getting called out for being a jerk? Suck it up and move on, buddy!

That in mind, this guy COULD have had a case - he just chose the WRONG case. He's decided to wimp out and beg for "you made me feel bad" money, which he should never get a penny for. You don't get to act like a jerk and then sue for monetary compensation when your actions are made known and everyone knows you're a jerk. If the guy had punched the priest in the face over the sermon's failures, and all the priest did (rather than sue for assault and battery) was tell the congregation, "Oh, my black eye? Angel Llavona punched me because he thought my sermon sucked" - Llavona would STILL have no case over the fact that he decided to switch parishes and was ratted out for being a jerk.

What Llavona COULD have argued was that he called the Reverend on his church line, expecting the privacy associated with the confidentiality laws applying between religious leaders and followers. Although it was in no way a "confession" (the usual conversation those laws apply to) - the law might be swayed on his side in a case of breaking confidentiality.

The only other thing that gets me irked about this (which has no legal grounds) is that it seems like the priest was commenting that he (and the congregation) had the power to send Llavona to hell. That just seems a little blasphemous in my mind. I'm pretty sure that in the Catholic faith, it's God who makes that decision, not an angry priest or a congregation. The afterlife is not determined through a democratic process. Also, it's contradictory that a priest is supposed to hear confessions and offer absolution for sins, and this one aired those sins and treated them as unforgivable.

Nevertheless - Llavona, you should be asking for an apology, not a sum of money. You suffered no monetary damages through these actions, which were all your fault for being a jackass anyway. What you should really be doing is making a case to the Catholic Diocese about removing a priest who would do un-priestly things like what Reverend Luis Alfredo Rios did.

Even so, I'm going to side with Rios and the Catholic Church on this impending lawsuit of uselessness and avarice.

Of course, I'm Jewish. So take this all with a grain of salt. And a margarita. L'chaim!

(The article about the lawsuit)


Anonymous said...

You're as much of an idiot as the so-called "priest". This guy is not a Catholic Priest at all. He's a loser product of the Vatican II. It's amazing that anyone is left in the congregation of these novus ordo protestant, pagan, heretical vestigages of the Catholic Church. But of course there will always be the fools in the pews, especially ignorant women, who think that one loving-god is as good as the next.

The Curmudgeon said...

I agree that admission to the Afterlife is probably not controlled by a vote of those who show up to church. (And, for this, I am grateful.)

But I think you are unnecessarily worried about the merits of Mr. Llavona's suit -- I doubt he'll ever see a dime. And he had to ask for $50,000 in order to get into the court's Law Division -- that's really kind of a formality.

I don't think a clergyman -- of any faith -- should do what Fr. Rios is alleged to have done.

AaronBSam said...

As for comments made by anonymous, I may be Jewish, but I do know enough that a reverend/priest working for the Roman Catholic Diocese is still known as a "Catholic Priest". While I'm sure that Vatican II was a real downer for "real Catholics" - the definition remains valid. And boy, I thought I was a misogynist!

As for comments made by The Curmudgeon, I'm not worried at all. I'm just annoyed and irked by it all. My main "worry" through all of this nonsense is that it will encourage more idiocy by setting a precedent to be a jackass in this manner. True, what Rev. Rios did was not at all right ETHICALLY or MORALLY - but it was all LEGAL and there is no grounds for a lawsuit at all.

jimstoic said...

Llavona has asked to meet with the priest, but the priest won't meet with him. Given that kind of response, a lawsuit seems reasonable to me.

Matt M. said...

A. He had a right to privacy because it was left on the priest's personal answering machine, so it was wrong to play it in front of the entire congregation.

B. Illinois law allows you to sue for embarrassment in a situation like this. The priest is not allowed to use the recording in any form because in Illinois there is a dual consent law which more or less means both parties must consent to a private conversation to be used. The conversation laws you referred to are tied directly to these laws, so he is, in essence, suing for the reason you said would be "okay".

C. Why sue the Diocese? He asked them what to do about the situation and they more or less gave him nothing, no support at all when what the priest is doing is illegal. He also tried to meet with the priest, who refused, and the Diocese wouldn't help facilitate anything. Because of this they are part of the embarrassment that Angel was subject to.

While it may be a lawsuit that doesn't necessarily need to be had, Angel has some very reasonable points.

Anonymous said...

I am doing research for my college thesis, thanks for your great points, now I am acting on a sudden impulse.

- Laura